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Climb of Fuselage Gully on Beinn Eighe won't go ahead on 70th anniversary of Lancaster bomber crash


By John Davidson

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The RAF mountain rescue team navigating through the crux of Fuselage Gully.
The RAF mountain rescue team navigating through the crux of Fuselage Gully.

Members of the RAF Lossiemouth mountain rescue team will not be able to take on a memorial climb on the 70th anniversary of an air crash in the mountains of Ross-shire.

A Lancaster bomber went down close to the summit of Beinn Eighe in Wester Ross on the evening of March 13, 1951.

Usually, the rescue team members mark the anniversary by taking on a climb of the gully where the aircraft crashed – where much wreckage can still be found. A propeller partway up Fuselage Gully is even used as an anchor for belaying.

However, this year, due to the restrictions brought on by the pandemic, the team say they will mark the occasion by conducting training on base.

Climbing through the wreckage in Fuselage Gully.
Climbing through the wreckage in Fuselage Gully.

RAF Lossiemouth mountain rescue deputy team leader, Sgt Ali Beer said: “It’s a shame we can’t climb the gully this year. It is an important part of RAF mountain rescue history and our training.

"This is when we remember our past and focus on being able to conduct aircraft post crash management in any terrain or weather. However, we understand the importance of adhering to restrictions.

“The crash site still contains large amounts of wreckage and forms a very atmospheric winter climb known as Fuselage Gully. On the climb the mountaineers navigate through parts of the wreck.

"Further wreckage can be found at the foot of the mountain where a plaque to the crew was laid by the team. We look forward to being able to take our newest members on this challenging climb in the future.”

The anniversary of the crash that killed eight members of the Lancaster TX264 crew serves as a reminder of the importance of the mountain rescue team.

The Triple Buttress in Coire Mhic Fhearchair, with Fuselage Gully to the right of the third buttress. Picture: John Davidson
The Triple Buttress in Coire Mhic Fhearchair, with Fuselage Gully to the right of the third buttress. Picture: John Davidson

The remote nature of the crash site meant it took three days to locate the wreck in 1951. The recovery operation took several weeks and required the help of a Royal Marine mountain leader who possessed the winter climbing skills needed to navigate the challenging terrain.

As a result of the incident, the Royal Air Force revised the training provided to the mountain rescue team. It is said this incident led to the modernisation of mountain rescue across the country.

Team members now receive annual training courses in winter and summer climbing techniques so they can deploy readily to any mountainous region or challenging situation they may face.

A plaque laid in honour of the crewman of the Lancaster bomber who died in the crash.
A plaque laid in honour of the crewman of the Lancaster bomber who died in the crash.

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